Yangtze turtle nears extinction after last known female found dead: ‘Devastating’
The last known remaining female Yangtze giant softshell turtle was found dead in Vietnam last week, leaving the species on the brink of extinction.
A member of a non-profit turtle protection group found the animal floating in a Hanoi lake last Sunday, the local economic department head Phung Huy Vinh told VN Express.
The reptile — which weighed 205 pounds and was just over 5 feet long — may have died several days before it was found.
Only two known living Yangtzes remain on earth — one in nearby Hanoi’s Xuân Khanh Lake and another in Suzhou Zoo.
Both are males, and one suffers from impotence.
“It’s a real blow,” Tim McCormack, director of the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) for Indo-Myanmar Conservation, told TIME.
“It was a large female that obviously has great reproductive capacity. She could have potentially laid a hundred eggs or more a year.”
Researchers will determine the reptiles’ cause of death and age.
She was first found swimming in Vietnam’s Dong Mo Lake in 2020, giving researchers hope that the most endangered turtle species could be reinvigorated naturally.
The Yangtzes — the largest freshwater turtle — were decimated by habitat destruction and illegal turtle hunting, according to the ATP.
Vietnam and Chinese researchers have also attempted to artificially inseminate the female Yangtzes since 2008, but all attempts have proved unsuccessful.
The penultimate surviving female died in 2019 after she was put under general anesthetic.
Researchers are holding out hope that there may be another Yangtze stealthily living in Dong Mo.
Zimbabwean-American conservationist Forrest Galante suggested that the species could be brought back from the brink of extinction with the help of advanced cloning technology.
The “Extinct or Alive” host — who worked with the turtle in 2020 to help ATP confirm her gender through eDNA analysis — called the species “functionally extinct without human intervention.”
“I am still in just such belief that yesterday, we literally witnessed the loss of one of the planet’s true gigantic species, the Yangtze giant softshell turtle,” Galante said on Facebook.
“It’s just devastating. Humans must learn from this and try to do better as docents of our planet.”